THIS AERIAL SHOT of the Har Bracha settlement in the West Bank, south of Nablus, in September shows homes in the early stages of construction..
(photo credit: COURTESY PEACE NOW)
Peace Now went head-to-head with the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday in a public dispute about statistics for the advancement of plans for new homes in West Bank settlements.
In a rare move, the PMO published a disclaimer with regard to media and NGO reports on the subject.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have not approved new construction as has been published,” the PMO said.
“Almost all of the permits are for upgrading existing structures. The small proportion of them pertaining to new construction are for the community of Ganei Modi’in [part of the Mod’in Illit settlement], which abuts the fence and which will be part of Israel in any future agreement,” the PMO said.
But the non-governmental group Peace Now, which monitors settlement activity, immediately disputed that statement and said that it has the aerial photos to prove it.
On Wednesday, the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria advanced plans for some new homes and retroactive legalization of homes in six West Bank settlements; among them 57 units in Har Bracha under the auspices of the Samaria Regional Council.
Peace Now provided an aerial shot of Har Bracha taken in September 2015, which showed that the homes in questions were in the early stages of construction.
Similarly it pointed to the 70 units which the council advanced in Nokdim, for which it also has an aerial photo. Twenty of those homes exist now as caravans, Peace Now said, but the remaining 50 have yet to be built.
But it did not provide further evidence to back up its remaining claims. Details of the decisions taken will be make public only when the minutes from the meeting are published on the Interior Ministry’s website.
Both those communities are considered to be “isolated settlements” located beyond the planned route of the security barrier.
But Yigal Dilmoni, who is the deputy head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, said that Peace Now and the PMO were just splitting hairs.
“Unfortunately, the PMO is correct,” that there is nothing new here, he said.
The PMO and Peace Now are arguing about whether homes in old plans were built and just now being legalized or whether they have yet to be built. But either way, the plans before the council are old ones that do provide for a significant boost in new homes.
Big projects in large settlements like Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim are sitting in a drawer simply waiting for approval, he said, as he struggled to remember when the last significant plan was passed.
Soon there won’t be any old plans left to approve. “We are traveling on our last remnants of fuel without any new gas to put in the car,” Dilmoni said.
The Higher Planing Council for Judea and Samaria has met monthly since January, including on Wednesday. According to Peace Now, the council advanced plans for 265 new homes at its April meeting.
To date, the council advanced plans for 764 new West Bank homes in 2016, said Peace Now. It did not include the council’s advancement of approvals for 34 new homes in the Tekoa settlement in its list, which would bring the total for 2016 to 798.
According to the Samaria Regional Council, the approvals from Revava and Bracha are retroactive and therefore should be removed from that list, bringing the number of new settler homes in the under debate before the council to 727.
According to Peace Now, the council advanced plans for only 621 settler homes in all of 2015.